Dream Sequence - Techniques

Techniques

Audio or visual elements, such as distinctive music or coloration, are frequently used to signify the beginning and end of a dream sequence in film. It has also become commonplace to distinguish a dream sequence from the rest of the film by showing a shot of a person in bed sleeping or about to go to sleep. Other films show a dream sequence followed by a character waking up in their own bed, such as the dream sequence George Gershwin composed for his film score to Delicious. In classic Hollywood, the wavy dissolve was the standard way to transition between reality and a dream; there would be a close-up of the character having the dream, which would begin shimmering as we crossed over from reality to fantasy. One of the most common contemporary transitions into a fantasy is to zoom in on a character's face and then spin around to the back of that character to reveal that he/she is now standing in an alternate reality. Perhaps the most common technique today is the post-reveal in which a character is shown in an awkward or unusual situation, the scene builds to an even more absurd or unusual situation, and then suddenly there is a cut to the character waking up, as exemplified by the opening sequence of Bring It On where a pep rally with irreverent routines builds into an abnormal moment where a character is revealed topless; she then wakes up to the viewers' realization that she had been dreaming.

This is akin to the technique wherein a dream sequence is a plot device in which an entire story has been revealed to be a dream. As opposed to a segment of an otherwise real scenario, in these cases it is revealed that everything depicted was unreal. Often this is used to explain away otherwise inexplicable events. Because it has been done in many occasions to resolve a storyline that seemed out of place or unexpected, it is often considered weak storytelling; a particularly referenced example of this is the TV show Dallas in which the entirety of season 8 was revealed after the fact to have been a dream. Furthermore, in-jokes are often made in writing (particularly television scripts) that refer to the disappointment a viewer might feel in finding out everything the have watched was a dream. For example, entire sequences of the Family Guy two-part episode "Stewie Kills Lois" and "Lois Kills Stewie" are revealed to have taken place within a virtual reality simulation, upon which a character asks whether a potential viewer could be angry that they have effectively watched a dream sequence, but this technique can also be effective and its use lauded when the status of dream or reality is left more ambiguous as it was in The Wizard of Oz.

It is important to note that the camera angles and movements used to depict dream sequences enable this kind of play and confusion between the diegetic reality and the dreamed world by presenting the dream world as a visually accessible space in which the character moves around the same as he does in the diegetic reality, as opposed to restricting themselves cinematographically to a subjective viewpoint even though dreams are generally understood to be experienced by the dreamer from their own subjective point of view. This point is made salient by the films which choose to employ first-person camera angles such as Strange Days (1995) when it depicts recorded memories experienced via the "SQUID" recorder, the first-person sequence of Doom (2005), the beginning of Enter the Void (2010), and others, and how radically these moments stand out against normal cinematography even when the subject matter is something as subjective as a dream. Many have cited the general impracticality and unattractiveness of sustained first-person perspective in film as a reason for its absence from filmed dream sequences.

Read more about this topic:  Dream Sequence

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